(Photo: Laura Taylor)
What Really Makes You Happy and Can Anyone Find Happiness?
To be sure happiness is elusive – there are those who might even say it is an illusion. How does a person gauge happiness? Certainly throughout our lives what we think will make us happy changes – at 6 probably all it took was a heavily frosted cupcake. As an adult, what is it? — a great job, a wonderful relationship, an African Safari? Or is that confusing happiness with wants or desires? Our Founding Fathers knew that happiness is something we all want, but also realized that it is something to be sought after, but not necessarily obtained, as they guaranteed us the Right to the ”Pursuit of Happiness” and not the right to “Be Happy.”
Most experts agree that happiness is much less about the things we do or the things we have, or even our achievements and accomplishments – than it is about the choices we make. In fact, many believe that happiness itself is a choice. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” How you view the world and your place in it is a conscious choice. You can choose to find happiness in the little things, or choose to see only the negative. With the exception of certain clinical conditions and psychological abnormalities beyond the scope of this discussion, never doubt that happiness is a choice. We all know people that seemingly have everything in life, and yet are miserable, and others with little or nothing, that appear very happy. The difference is a conscious choice. To those who say – “that’s absurd, we have no control over outside horrible or tragic events – so we cannot choose to be happy.” That is true, you cannot choose whether this, that, or the other circumstance occurs in your life – but you can choose how to react to it, or think about it, and that is where the choice to be happy – or not, comes in.
There is a common myth, started by miserable people no doubt, or Ebenezer Scrooge, that most people find happy people silly or annoying. Actually, recent studies have found the opposite to be true, happier people have more friends, are married more, often stay married longer, and are more likely to succeed in their chosen careers. The same studies found that happy people are thought of as friendlier, warmer, less selfish, more attractive – and smarter, by their peers. That last one is interesting, because the idea of the “happy idiot” or “ignorance is bliss” – still pervades a lot of peoples thinking – but research has shown that there is no correlation whatsoever between happiness and intelligence.
So how then can we choose to be happy? Much has been written about that. The first step is to find a way to control negativity and negative emotions. Follow the 80/20 rule, and find those few simple somethings that make you happy and do those. Do not dwell on the past, or the future – and I like the particular sentiments in this ancient Chinese Proverb:
If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.
Let me know what makes you happy in the comments below.